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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 8/22

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So much happened this week. There was a bomb threat at the Library of Congress, White Lotus had its season finale, and Nicki Minaj and her husband Kenneth Petty are being sued by his alleged rape victim. Highlights: Afghanistan, Haiti, eating whale, OnlyFans, the Jeopardy! saga continues, Peloton’s celebrities, Texas rap, Aaliyah’s One in a Million, Isley Brothers’ Tiny Desk, and Lorde’s Solar Power

 

 

1. n+1: Disastrous Blundering: A War in Afghanistan Reading List

The Taliban seized control over Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, on August 15, effectively signaling the collapse of the government. Nearly every news outlet is reporting this, and many have timelines of the past week, but few offer an “analysis of events and not a mere telling of events,” as Sahar Ghumkhor and Anila Daulatzai wrote in an opinion piece published on Al Jazeera. 

I have not read all of the articles on this list, but n+1 usually has engaging writing that is critical of US imperialism. Furthermore, in reading some of the articles, I found it useful that they date back to 2004 and function as snapshots of the US invasion of Afghanistan since then. 

 

 

2. Black Perspectives: Roundtable on Brandon R. Byrd’s The Black Republic

On Saturday, Haiti was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake “leaving 2,189 people dead, 12,268 injured and at least 332 missing. Days later, Tropical Storm Grace swept over the ravaged landscape, hampering the complicated search and rescue mission,” as Eloise Barry reported for Time. 

Many reports and posts on social media discuss (both implicitly and explicitly) Haiti’s political and economic instability without providing the requisite historic context. As with the previous list, I have yet to read all of the essays included in the roundtable on Brandon R. Byrd’s “The Black Republic,” which “follow[s] the basic assumption that African Americans looked to Haiti when considering the complex issues that emerged in the aftermath of slavery.” This roundtable, made up of scholars and historians, provides the historical context and analysis that a lot of mainstream dialogue about Haiti has missed this week, and explains how, as Frederick Douglass declared in 1893, and Leslie M. Alexander explores in her contribution, “we have not yet forgiven Haiti for being Black.”

 

 

3. Harper’s Magazine: Eating the Whale

I didn’t think I would read this essay in one sitting, hanging onto every word—but that is exactly what I found myself doing after the first few sentences. This story, according to its sub-headline is “a personal history of meat” in which Wyatt Williams writes about his journey to Alaska to try whale. It is also a story entwined with colonization, as Williams flew as far north as Alaska Airlines would fly—to Barrow, although “In the fall, the town would vote to change the name back to Utqiaġvik. The place had been known by that name (or something like it) for hundreds of years prior, long before white whalers and explorers started showing up and naming things after themselves.” 

Williams was interested in questions such as, “Why do we kill animals and why do we eat them? Is it right or wrong? What constitutes ethical behavior in a godless world?” He ends up writing about lineage and the quest to understand. 

I found lots of moments here that could be extracted and applied to topics I’m interested in—namely design, and specifically branding. Of all the words I hung onto reading this, the following really has stuck with me:

“This is what happens when you want to understand, when you try to know everything you can know. It is a beautiful temptation, to collect from the world and arrange it so that the collection reduces the world around it, so that things around us that were once unexplainable and unknowable can now be seen clearly with a single glance. This is what maps, museums, books, and farms try to do. They try to make the world comprehensible. They organize nature. This is what I wanted to do, I suppose. The trouble is that the world isn’t reducible in that way, it can’t be understood at a glance. It can’t be made a single inch smaller than it is. Yet we insist on trying to understand. It is a simple, human desire. We keep adding to our arrangements, to our museums, animal after animal, bone after bone, until there’s no more room. What’s left behind isn’t as big as the world, and somehow much smaller than the mystery that surrounds it. The failed collections of broken men. Dim rooms full of junk.”

 

4. Input: OnlyFans is banning porn, the very thing that made it big

Beginning October 1, OnlyFans is banning porn. This policy will prohibit users from posting “sexually explicit conduct,” although people could still post nude photos. “The decision comes as the London-based company has reportedly been struggling to raise new funding, despite monumental growth, because investors are cautious or contractually prohibited from investing in adult content.” This move is highly controversial and it’s receiving considerate pushback as “OnlyFans grew off the back of sex workers, who found a safe haven in the platform to charge their fans for access to explicit photos and videos. Unfortunately, there remains a stigma in the world surrounding sex, and OnlyFans empowering a new generation of entrepreneurs to run their own independent businesses — and make millions doing it — apparently wasn’t enough to change that perception.”

Writer Saeed Jones has a great Twitter thread on why sex work is work, and how OnlyFans really messed this up. 

 

 

5. The Ringer: “A Smile With Sharp Teeth”: Mike Richards’s Rise to ‘Jeopardy!’ Host Sparks Questions About His Past

Never in my life have I been this invested in Jeopardy—but here we are, another week into the saga. 

In this piece, published on Wednesday, Claire McNear details the then newly-appointed Jeopardy! host Mike Richards’s long history of offensive and discriminatory comments. McNear resurfaced comments made by Richards between 2013 and 2014 when he hosted the podcast The Randumb Show, in which he “repeatedly used offensive language and disparaged women’s bodies.” Forty-one episodes of the show were online until Tuesday, but “hours after The Ringer asked Sony and Richards’s agent about The Randumb Show, the audio of every episode was pulled down and the podcast’s hosting site, mrichtv.podbean.com, was deleted.”

McNear’s piece set Twitter ablaze, and a clip from a 2018 interview with former host Alex Trebek began to circulate in which he named CNN’s Laura Coates as his successor. Many people have pointed out that Coates, a Black woman, wasn’t even given a guest host audition during the search process. 

On Friday, Richards resigned as host of Jeopardy! but will remain the show’s executive producer. While many want to see Coates try her hand at hosting the show, LeVar Burton is still a fan favorite, and he wished everyone a “happy Friday” as the mess unfolded on Twitter. Elie Mystal predicts that “Jeopardy is going to eventually offer @levarburton the job now and he’s going to @nhannahjones them and end up hosting Wheel of Fortune. 🙂”. The sad part, as Morgan Jerkins pointed out, “Is that even if we get the host we wanted, they weren’t the first pick. That’s the painful part. We’re never the first pick for a permanent spot. You bypassed everyone’s wants because you had to–just had to–get a white man. And now look.” 

 

 

6. Culture Study: The Parameters of Peloton Celebrity

I do not engage with Peloton apart from unwillingly watching their commercials—which are everywhere. I do, however, love Anne Helen Peterson’s obsession with gossip and cultural analysis. 

One of Peloton’s most popular instructors, Ally Love, recently got married and it was all over a part of the internet I’m never on. The wedding, which spanned five days, “was embargoed. Not press embargoed. Social media embargoed. None of her friends or fellow Peloton instructors were allowed to post about any of the events until she posted first.” While Peloton brands itself as a family, there are always fissures, and “Over the course of the last, oh, six months, the writing between the lines has become more and more legible: who was friends with (or invested in appearing to be friends with) who, but also who got the bigger stock cash-outs, who had bigger brand partnerships, who was more committed to transforming their off-bike existences into lifestyle content. The Ally Love wedding provided an inflection point: a means of further sorting instructors into types and teams, of clarifying who they are and what they mean.”

I, too, love gossip and got the same rush reading this as I do watching The Bachelor in Paradise

 

 

7. Texas Monthly: The 20 Essential Texas Rap Tracks

Pieces like this are my absolute shit. This article is exactly what its title suggests: a highly annotated list of 20 of the most influential Texas rap tracks. Beginning with Disco Al’s 1980 “The Bounce Rap,” and ending with Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage (remix)” featuring Beyoncé, the list explores how the Lone Star State made something created on the east coast its own.

 

 

8. The Root: Aaliyah, Missy Elliot and Timbaland Changed the Game With 1996’s One in A Million. Thankfully, I Now Get to Relive That Moment

Aaliyah’s sophomore album, One in A Million, was released on streaming services this week. The singer’s catalogue had previously been noticeably absent from streaming services due to a “dispute between Blackground’s Barry Hankerson—Aaliyah’s uncle and former manager who owns her masters—and the Estate of Aaliyah Haughton,” as Evan Minsker explained at Pitchfork. 

Panama Jackson was 17 when he first heard the album’s title track, “One in A Million,” and hadn’t heard the album “in probably over a decade. YouTube doesn’t hit sonically right and One in A Million is an album that needs the right space to be heard. Like some real house speakers or in my car. Why? Because One in A Million changed the game.” Like many, Jackson listening to the album made him realize how much he missed the singer. “So much of Aaliyah’s music—the stuff that really changed the game—has been unavailable for so long I don’t think I remembered how much it mattered. Now that it’s all coming back, I get it.”

 

 

9. YouTube: The Isley Brothers: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

The Isley Brothers performed a Tiny Desk (Home) concert and I was totally immersed in my screen through the four-song setlist. In the video description, Bobby Carter writes that “The Isley Brothers have eclipsed legendary status – their music is an intrinsic, indelible part of American culture. Watching Ron and Ernie play with as much enthusiasm as they did 30, 40, 50 years ago is an awe-inspiring sight to cherish.” An absolutely amazing concert. 

 

 

10. Pitchfork: Lorde: Solar Power

Lorde released her much-anticipated album Solar Power this week. The singer made the album after traveling to Antarctica, and “it’s part newfound realization of social and environmental consciousness, part self-help guide: her rationale for choosing the quiet life and reconnecting with nature, a diagram for threading the needle of joy when you might also live to see the end of Earth. Her message is—literally—light,” and “it feels like doing less.”

The album met my expectations cultivated from its lead singles, the titular “Solar Power” and “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” which disappointed me. I wanted more, and “Solar Power doesn’t solicit strong emotion in either direction.”

 

 

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